SAM goes soft for 2018

November 21, 2017

Michael Parekowhai, Cosmo McMurtry, 2006.

Shepparton Art Museum's exhibition of newly-commissioned artwork opens on January 27 with what promises to be a fun and challenging show about the changing meaning of softness.

Softcore presents work by 13 Australian and international artists who explore the sensation through large-scale inflatables and soft materials.

Artists include American multimedia and installation artist Tony Oursler; Michael Parekowhai, arguably New Zealand’s most celebrated artist; Patricia Piccinini, who famously designed the Skywhale hot air balloon; and Mikala Dwyer who courted controversy for her ritualistic excrement-based performance in 2013.

In the 20th century, artists began to disassemble the notion of traditional sculpture by adding and subtracting constructions, incorporating found objects and designating everyday items as art. These adaptive and divergent methods of form making continue today in a generation of artists who define sculpture in the negative condition: not bronze, not stone, not the macho force of the blast furnace.

The materials in this exhibition encompass air, inflatable nylon, unfired clay and plastics bags – materials that have been co-opted for their versatility and their mutability between function and emotion. Some of the works require activation – such as electricity or inflation to become whole while others inhabit their softness quietly.

SAM director Rebecca Coates said the fun, provocative and inspiring nature of this exhibition would be a good fit for Shepparton audiences.

“Shepparton has a strong representation of groups who use and make textiles – from quilting, to weaving, to local Afghani embroiderers.

“There is a connection between this exhibition and SAM’s significant collection of Australian ceramics. Prior to firing, clay is of course a soft material - one that engages through its sheer tactility, and malleable potentiality. That’s in part why there has been an upsurge in the popularity of ceramics. Soft Core builds on the work we have done around contemporary artists engaging with these materials in a contemporary way.

“The show features work by leading Australian artists who have built a reputation in part based on materiality – Kathy Temin with her fake fur and soft environments; Mikala Dwyer with her pantyhose, oversized plastic sculptures, which are actually made from the material that you use for coke bottles; and Louise Weaver with her crocheted animals, objects and installations that intrigue visitors with whimsy and wonder,” Ms Coates said.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive soft-form catalogue featuring newly commissioned writing on each of the exhibition artists by significant institutional and independent writers including Justin Paton, Lisa Slade, Anna Davis, Jason Smith, Russell Storer, Georgina Cole, Francis E Parker, Vanessa Berry, Robert Leonard and Victoria Lynn.

Softcore opens on January 27 and continues until March 18.

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